Marie-Pierre Pruvot ‘Bambi’: an HSTS life

Marie-Pierre Pruvot, (1935- ) whose stage name was Bambi, is a French HSTS transwoman who was born in Algeria.

In many ways, Marie-Pierre’s life is a classic HSTS trajectory. Discovering her cross-sex identification in early childhood, she struggled to cope. Eventually, she dropped out of school before completing her Baccalauriat, the French equivalent of the High School Graduation Certificate or the British ‘A’ Levels, despite being an exemplary student.

She met Coccinelle, perhaps the most famous of French transwomen of the era and, through her, became a cabaret star in her own right. Like Coccinelle and April Ashley, she attended Dr Burou’s surgery in Casablanca for Genital Reconstruction Surgery.

Marie-Pierre continued to star in shows at the Carrousel but recommenced her studies, eventually completing her school education and progressing to the Sorbonne. After taking her Degree and Masters, she took her Teaching Certificate and left show business to work as a teacher in the French state school system.

Marie-Pierre lived two of the lives typical of HSTS: she was an entertainer and also, she ‘woodworked’, vanishing from public view and inventing a new life as a schoolteacher, a job that she enjoyed until her retirement. Her life is an example to all young HSTS: anything is possible for you. Your status as transsexual, in today’s world, need not stand in your way. You many need more courage and fortitude and the determination to succeed than other women, but there are more than enough success stories like Marie-Pierre’s to show it can be done.

Marie-Pierre now lives in retirement in the same Paris suburb she spent so much of her life teaching in.

Below is her personal statement, which I have translated from the original French.

‘My given name was Jean-Pierre Pruvot. I was born on the 11th of November 1935 in the village of Isser, in Grande Kabylie in Algeria. My childhood, although generally happy, was perturbed, since before I can remember, by the conflict between my desire to be a girl, indeed, the certainty that I was and would remain one; and on the other hand, the words of those around me and all the obstacles that reality placed in the way of my internal truth. As time went by I felt the weight of external condemnation which obliged me to constantly mind my ways (in voice, hairstyle, clothing, movements and manners) so as to avoid any scandal, especially after the death of my father, when I was 14, which upset me greatly.

During all the time I was at in secondary school I spent my time in my bedroom reading, (I did well at school) and waiting for a miracle that would make me into the woman that I was. After the third year I went to the High School for boys in Algiers. I suffered greatly from the difficulty of my situation. In the end I could not study any longer. Before leaving school at the age of 16, I discovered that Carrousel, which was on tour, was putting in a show in a nearby casino, with Coccinelle, who had just made her debut in show-business. My departure became certain.

I made my own debut at Madame Arthur’s when I was 18. The police were very strict then and forbade the wearing of women’s clothing. I had to struggle, to keep calm and not give in. In September 1954 I joined Carrousel. I worked and lived with my friend Coccinelle, who did everything to help me. The following year, Coccinelle left on tour and I became the star of the Carrousel show. A year later I went on tour myself.

Coccinelle had discovered estrogen, and also Dr Burou in Casablanca (where he carried out GRS surgeries. Ed.) She had her operation soon after, while I waited two years to do the same. The operation caused a break between me and my boyfriend.

The Carrousel changed its venue and became part of a female revue called Elle et Lui (She and He). There I met a transman who called himself Eric. He became my loyal performance partner. We put on lesbian shows at Elle et Lui, at Carrousel and also on tour.’

At the time Coccinelle got married, I had not yet obtained my legal gender change to feminine. The war in Algeria, followed by its secession from France, put me in a difficult position. I was waiting for the Algerian authorities to send me my new papers. In the end, without much hope, I went to Algiers, where the authorities immediately agreed to the change: Jean-Pierre became Marie-Pierre, born female. This was automatically valid in France, without need for any further legal decision.

While I worked at Carrousel, I went back to studying. I passed my baccalaureat at the age of 33. I then began attending the Sorbonne, where I took my degree in 1972, my Masters in 1973 and my teaching certificate in 1974. The same year I was appointed teacher of literature in Cherbourg. (At that time, teachers in France began their careers in the far north and were promoted southwards. Ed.) This was a great success for me but I was deeply sad to leave Carrousel. After two years I returned to the Paris area, teaching in a secondary school with a very modest reputation, called College Pablo Picasso at Garges-les-Gonesse. I liked it there and I remained for 25 years. I was rewarded with the Palm Academic. At no time during my academic career was my past, or status as a transwoman, ever discovered.

Perhaps, looking back over my life, I did not do all that I could have. I kept away from the great debate about the war in Algeria, which caused so much trouble and was so opposed. It was because the difficulties in my own life occupied my mind completely. As regards the major decisions I made in my personal life, I am confident that I made the right ones, at the right time.

Transition for HSTS: What Can Be Expected for Life?

 Foreword

One often hears only of the poor outcomes when transsexuals are discussed in public forums or in the press and visual media. The prostitute, the public spectacle of the middle aged man dressed up as being “brave” or the publication of a tragic suicide or murder of yet another transsexual. This is, I know from personal experience, what many people fear for someone they love when that person tells them they are transsexual and intend to transition. Though it was some considerable time ago now I know my own mother and father held these same fears for me and vocalised them in an attempt to dissuade me.

I am a Homosexual Transsexual (HSTS). It should be noted that the vast majority of transgender people one sees in the media are not HSTS, but are instead men who suffer from Autogynephillia (AGP) and whose gender dysphoria has lead them to adopt an alternative personality, of someone of the opposite sex. These people have usually led successful lives as men and tend to transition much later in life than HSTS do. These transgender women rarely manage to integrate themselves back into society as their acquired gender after transition and often fulfil some position within the trans community or LGBT movement.

This is not true of HSTS who can usually pass as the opposite sex very early in the transition process and go on to live very normal lives, accepted as women by all those around them.

If you are reading this as a parent of a young HSTS and are concerned about what kind of life your child can expect or if you are a young HSTS with similar worries about your own future, I can assure you that it is possible to live a very normal and successful life after transition, especially these days, where medical help to transition is available to children under 18. To that end I have opted to give a very brief outline of my life so far after 31 years post transition, as part of the information on this site in the hope of perhaps allaying some of those fears.

My History

I was born in 1964 in the UK to a working class family, the eldest of 3 boys. From early childhood I was always gender non-conforming, somewhat feminine in my expression and behaviours and physically small (the complete opposite of my brothers). Fortunately my parents were loving and after I didn’t grow out of my behaviours after a few years simply assumed I was homosexual, which as I approached puberty I and everyone else around me realised I was.

There was, though, something more going on. I recognised that the disconnect I felt to my natal sex and the anguish it caused me was an issue and learned very early that I was transsexual, but kept this secret to myself until my late teens. Back then there was no medical help in the UK for under 18’s and the first gender clinic for children did not open its doors there until I was in my 40’s.

Childhood was difficult, trying to fit in to an expected gender role which required me to try to adopt (unsuccessfully) behaviours which were quite unnatural to me, while coping with the problems Gender Dysphoria caused me. This recognition, though, made me quite resolute and capable as a child and young adult. I was determined not to fail or let this thing beat me, a trait I have witnessed often in other HSTS. We tend to be quite strong willed individuals. I was also, ultimately, very fortunate that puberty had next to no physical effect upon my body and I still looked like a pre-pubertal small boy at 20 years old.

More or less as soon as I was an adult, I left home and tried to exist in the world as a young gay male, afraid of what transitioning would do my life. This  was an abject failure. The cognitive dissonance caused by the gender dysphoria coupled with the recognition that I was no more like the gay men I met than I was the straight men around me, was causing my mental health to suffer. By the time I was 21 I had sought psychiatric help and had been officially diagnosed as suffering from Gender Identity Disorder. By the time I was 23 I had transitioned and was living as a woman in society. By 25 I had undergone Gender Reassignment Surgery.

Concerns about transition

At the time of my announcing my transition to my parents, they expressed many of the fears I have hinted at above and more besides, about what my future (if any) might look like. I too had my own concerns but I knew that this was the only way I was ever going to be happy with my life. They worried about things such as who would employ me, who would love me as a transsexual and they were concerned if I would have to live a sad and lonely life?

Outcomes

I am pleased to report that I experienced no such problems. I passed as female from the moment I began my transition and unlike so few seem to do today, I told nobody of my transsexuality. There were no protections back then for transsexuals or even gay people and secrecy was our greatest ally.

Relationships

While the first couple of years were tricky on the dating front I was never short of male attention, even after disclosing my trans status. Nor was employment an issue I had previously been working as an insurance clerk before transition and I got a similar job in a neighbouring city but as young woman and began to study to become a lawyer at night school. Two years later after my GRS I moved back to my home city and continued with my life and studies while now working at a law firm as a paralegal.

I dated a couple of men after my GRS but it was clear the relationships were not going to last. At 26 I was also working a second part time job in a local bar to help pay the bills for my study and living expenses where I met a charming and funny man the same age as myself who played on the football (soccer) team. I very quickly developed a friendship and a crush on him, though it took him another 4 months for him to ask me on a date!

After we had been dating a couple of weeks, quite terrified at what his reaction might be, I told him of my past. He was shocked of course and struggled with it and the implications of it for a day or two, but he said it didn’t matter and that he loved me and within a few months he had moved in to my flat. We bought our first home together about a year later and today, 27 years on I am still very happily married to this man. Tick that one off mum and dad!

Career

Obviously not being able to have children (and this was before gay adoption was accepted in the UK) I threw myself into my career and despite the latent sexism of many of the men I worked with was very successful. By the time I was in my mid 30’s I was managing a large law firm and at 40 I set up my own niche law firm with a colleague which we built to be the largest of its kind in the UK before selling it to a multi-national. By the time I was 48 I had moved into corporate governance and we either set up or acquired various other companies including amongst various others 3 additional law firms. Today I am a senior executive and shareholder of a large business group with circa 600 employees. Tick two mum and dad!

Conclusion

I have personally known and corresponded with other HSTS who have had similarly successful life paths. One owns and runs a successful model agency having been a model herself. Another is a senior corporate lawyer at a “Magic Circle” law firm and a third owns and runs a string of hair salons. Each of these women are married to their long term partners. Similarly each of these women live stealth with few if any knowing of their transsexuality. While I don’t know her personally, Kay Brown, another HSTS woman, owns several tech companies in the USA and has led a successful life as mother and business woman.

The point is, as MtF HSTS we have the opportunity to lead normal lives within wider society. We have little difficulty attracting sexual partners or life partners. Our career prospects are no different to those of natal women and if anything they are improved (unfairly so) by not usually suffering the career interruptions caused by childbearing. We are not all sex workers as seems to be the opinion of many people or those who exist only in the “trans/queer community”. We are accepted by all around us and by the men in our lives as women.

Transition for HTST is not the doomsday scenario it is painted to be by the media and others. Have faith, stay grounded and things have a tendency to work out.

April Ashley MBE: Fame and notoriety

In the UK, by far the most famous of the HSTS transwomen who were aided by Dr Burou was April Ashley. Unfortunately, her fame was perhaps less welcome than she might have desired.

Born George Jamison in 1935, April was a classic HSTS. She was bullied in her youth for her femininity and, according to her autobiography, never fully masculinised. Fully homosexual, she joined the Merchant Navy, where she was preyed on and raped.

In the late 1950s she moved to Paris and joined the cast at the Carousel Theatre, where she met Coccinelle. SHe took her name, ‘Ashley’ from the character in the film ‘Gone With the Wind’.

In 1960 she took £3000 in savings – a fortune in those days – and went to Casablanca. She became the first British person to have Genital Reconstruction Surgery (GRS) at Dr George Burou’s clinic there.

April Ashley with Arthur Corbett

Returning to London, she hit the celebrity glamour circuit, working as a model and dating film and theatre stars. In 1961, however, she was publicly outed by the Sunday People, a now-defunct tabloid that specialised in the salacious. With much of her career in tatters and many doors closed to her, in 1963 she met Arthur Corbett, who was married and had four children. He was Eton-educated and the heir of Lord Rowallan, as well as which, he was known to be an autogynephilic transvestite. (Today, it is well known that autogynephiles or AGPs are strongly attracted to HSTS transwomen.)

As is so often the case, though, having divorced his wife to marry April, this marriage also foundered in short order and a hugely notorious court case ensued, as April attempted to secure a financial settlement. The court decided that her husband owed her none, because, since she was legally male, they had never been legally married.

After the trial, April Ashley returned to occasional modelling, writing and public speaking. Although a life long activist for trans rights, she otherwise lived a quiet life and, at time of writing, was still doing so, in Fulham, West London.

April Ashley was able, finally, to legally change her gender marker in 2004, after the UK Government passed the Gender Recognition Act. In 2012 she was awarded the MBE for services to Transgender equality. She always maintained a friendship with Labour Politician John Prescott, whom she had met in the Merchant Navy.

In later life, April suffered considerably from osteoporosis, because she was not prescribed a maintenance dose of oestrogen HRT to keep this at bay.

Coccinelle: The first transsexual superstar

Coccinelle (23 August 1931—9 October 2006) was born Jacques Charles Dufresnoy, in France and became an actress and entertainer. Hers was the first GRS widely publicised in Europe, especially in France, where she was well-known as a club and cabaret singer.

As a result of a chance meeting with another transsexual, on a train, Coccinelle became aware of Dr Burou’s work and in 1958 she travelled to Casablanca to have her GRS.

On her return to France and recovery, she was lionised, performing a revue show that minmicked the big natal female stars of the day. In 1959 she was picked by Italian director Alessandro Blasetti to appear in Europa di Notte. Italian singer Ghigo Agosti dedicated the song “Coccinella” to her that year, causing widespread controversy.

A biography called Reverse Sex came out in 1962. [3] Coccinelle appeared in the 1962 film Los Viciosos and was the first French transsexual woman to become a major star, when Bruno Coquatrix splashed her name in red letters on the front of Paris Olympia for her 1963 revue “Cherchez la Femme”. She later appeared in the 1968 film Días de Viejo Color.

Coccinelle also worked extensively as an activist on behalf of transgendered people, founding the organization “Devenir Femme” (To Become Woman), which was designed to provide emotional and practical support for those seeking sexual reassignment surgery. She also helped establish the Center for Aid, Research, and Information for Transsexuality and Gender Identity. In addition, her first marriage (she had three husbands total) was the first transsexual union to be officially acknowledged by the state of France, establishing transgendered persons’ legal right in that country to marry. Her 1987 autobiography Coccinelle was brought out by Daniel Filipacchi. Coccinelle was hospitalized in July 2006 following a stroke and died that October at Marseille.

Coccinelle at 50

Coccinelle was not the only transsexual to be involved in the French showbusiness scene. Just as is the case today in many parts of the world, in the 1950s and 60s in Europe, clubs, cabarets and other entertainments, mainly aimed at a male market, where the only real venue where transsexuals could work, other than street prostitution. Some combined the trades, as it were, but the management of the better clubs tended to be strict. In France, although prostitution itself was at that time legal, pandering, pimping and other activities could easily lose a club its licence. In addition, there was an expectation that the stars would not take part in this trade, So even though there was certainly sex for sale, the top acts were required not to take part.

This somewhat uneasy balance between maintaining the outward appearance of propriety while clandestine sexual bargains were conducted privately, was a life-line to French transsexuals. It allowed them to make enough money to live and to afford the treatments that a transsexual depends on for her feminisation.

Magnus Hirschfeld, transsex pioneer

Magnus Hirschfeld was one of the most prominent early sexologists and, as a homosexual male himself, was trusted by both homosexuals and trans people.

A psychologist, he developed the first evidence-based treatments for HSTS. Although some of his ideas have become politically unfashionable, most still remain valid despite this.

The earliest real records we have of HSTS in the West come from the 20th century, principally from Hirschfeld. That HSTS appeared to be a  natural development of transgender homosexuality had certainly been widely noted and remarked on beforehand, but of individual life histories there are few, prior to Hirschfeld and his pioneering work in Germany.

Berthe Buttgereit

In 1912, a 21-year-old then named Berthe Buttgereit visited Hirschfeld as part of an application for a transvestite identity pass. Buttgereit was born female, had grown up in Berlin, and attended a coeducational school where she was described as “energetic and purposeful as a child, and behaved like a boy,” with little interest in the girls’ games. After receiving the pass, Buttgereit was able to live publicly as a man. In 1918, he also received a “transvestite passport,” permitting travel to Cologne.

Seven years later, now living as a man, Buttgereit submitted a request to officially become known as Berthold instead of Berthe. The request was granted. Later in life, he attempted, unsuccessfully, to marry the woman he had by that point lived with for eight years. This was denied by the authorities.

Katharina T

Another case was that of Katharina T, born female in 1910 in Berlin. Little is known about her life except that she was certainly trans and probably an HSTS transman. She was assisted, by Hirschfeld, in getting papers that protected her from routine police harassment for wearing men’s clothes. Hirshfeld certainly assisted others to do the same, but since his records were burned by the Nazis, we have no details.

Hirschfeld was, more famously, involved in the first two known Genital Reconstruction Surgeries (GRS) on Male-to-Feminine HSTS.

Dora or Dorchen Richter

Hirschfeld worked with Eugen Steinach, a surgeon from Vienna, to develop early Genital Reconstruction techniques. In 1931 the first complete male to feminine surgery was performed by Dr. Levy-Lenz, and Dr. Felix Abraham, two of Hirschfield’s co-workers at the Institute Sexual Science, which had been established in 1919. The patient was Dorchen Richter (previously Rudolf), who lived and worked in the Institute as a domestic servant. That same year the institute also reported two men undergoing genital surgery.

https://www.hirschfeld.in-berlin.de/institut/en/personen/pers_34.html

Dorchen’s surgeries proceeded over a period of years, beginning with an orchidectomy to remove the testes, which she requested in her late 20s. According to Felix Abraham, one of the Institute staff who published Dorchen’s gender transformation as case-study, ‘Her castration (orchidectomy) had the effect – albeit not very extensive – of making her body became fuller, restricting her beard growth, making visible the first signs of breast development, and giving the pelvic fat pad… a more feminine shape.’

Dorchen retained her penis, although she was completely homosexual, that is, was only attracted to men. In 1931, as the procedures had advanced, she asked for and was given penectomy and vaginoplasty; these, today are usually performed at the same time as the orchidectomy and the whole is called ‘Genital Reconstruction Surgery or Gender Reassignment Surgery.i

An Overview of Orchiectomy (Orchidectomy)

We don’t, alas, know what happened to Dorchen or the other transwomen who attended or worked at the Institute. The likelihood is that they were lost during the Nazi era. Although Nazi officers were notorious pederasts who routinely kidnapped boys for sex in their occupied territories, they had an implacable hatred of, in particular, male feminisation and what they considered to be transvestism.

Lili Elbe

Einer Wegener, left and Lili Elbe, right. Note her slight frame and feminine features.

Another of Magnus Hirschfeld’s patients was, Danish artist Einer Wegener. Einer became Lili Elbe and had the first publicly acknowledged male to feminine GRS; this caused a media sensation in Denmark and in Germany. Sadly she died following the final surgery in 1931, in which her surgeons attempted to transplant a womb intended to enable her to have children, but a book based on her personal writings about her experiences and a subsequent novel, The Danish Girl, made Lili  famous.

Some have questioned whether Lili was in fact HSTS or autogynephilic, but at the time she had her surgery, this distinction was not understood. It hs also been suggested that she might have been intersexual, possibly with either Partial Androgen Insensivity Syndrome or Klinefelter’s. Hirschfeld does not appear to have noted this.

Wegener was born into a wealthy middle-class Danish family, whereas Richter and other subjects were working people. The social constraints of the day, to conform to sexual and gender stereotypes, were very strong; it seems likely that Wegener’s marriage was the result of this and that she was in fact HSTS.

Sporus: The bride of Emperor Nero

Transsexualism, in the form of HSTS or, as the DSM-V has it, ‘Early Onset Gender Dysphoria’ has been around for a very long time. However, it was not until recently that we have begun to know something of the lives of HSTS. In antiquity, many were known of but few had their lives documented or recorded. Indeed the only one we are aware of was a slave called Sporus, who became the wife of the Roman Emperor Nero.

Sporus was what was known as a ‘puer delicatus’ or ‘pretty boy’. In Rome, these were almost always slaves, because the sexual role they played, of recipient in anal sex, was considered taboo for a Free man. It was normal for these boys to be castrated in order to preserve their feminine appearance longer. This was probably what is now called an ‘orchiectomy’ or ‘orchidectomy’, which involves the removal of the testes but not the penis.

Sporus had caught the attention of Nero because he closely resembled the Emperor’s wife. After Nero killed the poor woman in a fit of temper, he selected Sporus as her replacement. She was duly castrated and formally married. Nero paraded her around the city as Rome’s First Lady.

Unfortunately for Sporus, Nero was deposed and killed and his successor took her as his wife, as a part of his spoils. Calamity followed calamity when this husband was also killed and the new Emperor again took Sporus to wife; but this one had no intention of feting her. Rather, in order to humiliate her and thereby to humiliate the memory of his late predecessors, her former husbands, he planned for her to be gang-raped and then torn apart in the Circus as a treat for the people.

Sporus killed herself. Hers was a sad life, but one that should be remembered.

Although there are records of transgender individuals appearing in the pages of history between Sporus’ time and ours, these are rare and most appear to relate to autogynephilic transvestites rather than HSTS. One such, for example, the Chevalier d’Eon, lived ‘half his life as a man and half as a woman’. Clearly he was a classic Western AGP.